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Global warming could disrupt key crops

While climate change is threatening crop yields worldwide, little is known about how global warming will influence normal plant physiology. Higher temperatures have been shown to accelerate seed dispersal in crop species belonging to the cabbage and mustard plant family, limiting reproductive success.

Sciencedaily.com reported that research findings have appeared on February 12 in the journal Molecular Plant. "In many crops, such as oilseed rape, premature seed dispersal is one of the major causes of crop loss. In the context of climate change, this could become increasingly severe," says co-senior author Vinod Kumar, a plant developmental biologist at the John Innes Centre in Norwich, England. "This study exposes the potential vulnerabilities of crop production in the warming world and paves the way for addressing this problem."

Plants have an extraordinary ability to adjust their life cycle to suit a range of environmental conditions. For example, despite day-to-day changes in weather and temperature, the release of seeds stays in tune with prevailing seasonal conditions.

However, researches found that a rise in temperature, from 22ºC to 27ºC, accelerated pod shattering and seed dispersal. These findings could have broad relevance for maintaining yields of important crops. The research team suggests new strategies for preparing crops for global warming. For example, plant breeding efforts could focus on developing temperature-resilient varieties capable of coping with climate change. In addition, gene-editing tools, such as the CRISPR/Cas system, could be used to reduce the expression of certain genes, delaying seed release and reducing crop loss.

Publication date: 2/14/2018


 


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